Monday, 24 December 2012

Treat 12: Anthologies

This year myself and Rhys Jones created and put together the weird anthology Twisted Showcase, it proved quite a success on the web, and it was always the plan to take this forward to TV. The anthology show used to be huge on TV, I won't list examples because a lot are named below, but they seemed to have disappeared from TV, which I find a shame.

What I love about them is the variety, each week a whole new story, and satisfying too as that story reaches it's end each week, there's no cliffhanger to entice you back in a sluttish manner. It's a format that champions ideas, imagination and story in abundance.

Before I'd even seen the show I knew what The Twilight Zone was, which is something we tried to achieve with the bold title of Twisted Showcase. When I finally saw The Twilight Zone i was blown away by the stories and the themes that seemed to run through them all of them chiming with the modern fears of the time, again something that Twisted tried to achieve.

I also love the Britishness of Tales of the Unexpected and how freaky it could be in a truly odd way. I've always hunted out anthology series, I even enjoyed Masters of Horror which i believe doesn't have that much of a good rep, and have recently purchased Mystery & Imagination and Thriller boxsets.

Anyway, enough of me, in honour of the anthology show some brilliant British writers who are linked to Twisted Showcase have let me know of their thoughts in regards to anthology shows.

Neil Jones ( Bedlam,Waterloo Road, Grange Hill, Hollyoaks)

I grew up on Hammer House of Horror and Tales of the Unexpected, and I've always said that something of both shows is hardwired into Bedlam, which you pointed out is an anthology show itself in many ways. But I was never really allowed to watch more than few episodes, especially of Hammer, no matter what I pretended in school! So it was the 80s American anthologies like Tales from the Darkside that really hit home. If I had to choose one episode from any series, it would be Final Escape from the remake of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (I've still never seen the originals, shamefully). It's about a woman sentenced to life for murder who formulates an escape plan with a Morgan Freeman-lite prison doctor. Of course it backfires horribly in a truly terrifying twist which left me reeling as a kid and has lived with me for years. The story is perfectly formed and pulls off the trick of having every scene point towards the twist, but still making you feel that it came out of left field. It does it by subtly dangling another possible ending that you think you've been clever enough to work out. I always remembered the heroine as being deliciously nasty and there is an element, as is often the case in these stories, of her getting what's coming to her at the end (she is told at the beginning that she's going to find out what justice really means), but in this one it's so horrible and final that you don't wish it even on her. The final shot before Hitch comes back on and makes his joke from beyond the grave is properly chilling.

I've just gone back and had a look at the episode for the first time in ages, and if what I've said above doesn't sell it to you, it's worth seeking out just for the killer's amazing 80s shoulderpads in the opening scene, which are even more frightening than the ending.

Stephen Gallagher (Chimera, Chiller, Crusoe, Doctor Who and many more)

The '60s was a bit of a golden age for anthology series and one of the
greatest was Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which adaptated classic
stories with a heavy emphasis on the macabre and supernatural. They were
mostly introduced by David Buck in Victorian character. There was no
such framing device on the BBC's Out of the Unknown but, playing to a
niche audience in the early days of BBC2, it remains unsurpassed in
British TV SF. Others that made a big impression were Conan Doyle's
Tales of Medical Life, and, again from the BBC, a series of ambitious
plays under the title Detective, a series of one-off dramatisations of
works of detective fiction produced by Verity Lambert. They were strong,
standalone dramas. These days the same material would get shunted in the
direction of series production, where the setup is more of a
consideration than the story, and would suffer for it.

Roland Moore (Land Girls, Doctors, Smack the Pony)

I think my favourite anthology shows are all pretty well known series. The original Twilight Zone is a show I could watch all day (and have to limit myself to a couple of eps at lunchtime otherwise the whole system would fall apart). I could watch them again and again. I love the structure - the introductory and closing narration; the atmosphere and the storytelling ability. The high quality makes it amazing to think how quickly the episodes were written and produced...

Other favourites include Tales of the Unexpected (the darkness and bleak endings of some of these stories is quite disturbing even now) and Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the theatre feel of some of these stories means the acting and writing have to go the extra mile - and the eps are always intriguing).

Rhys Jones (Twisted Showcase)

Tales of The Crypt was the bed rock of my friendship with a lad called Danny in school. As I remember it now we talked about it all the time. I don't really remember much about the show itself anymore other than the crypt keeper himself, who we absolutely loved and would endlessly try to imitate. We liked his bad puns.

Feel free to leave your anthology memories, favourites, etc in the comments. It saddens me that there is a generation that hasn't been afforded the opportunity to enjoy an anthology, and there seems to be so many who remember them fondly.

Who knows, maybe Twisted Showcase will become a TV anthology, but for now we're going to keep delivering you some Twisted weirdness.

Keep checking

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